Thursday, July 30, 2009

Launch of The Internet Marketing Forum: Get Marketing Advice!

Announcing the beta launch of the Internet Marketing Forum!

Over the past year, I've heard from countless marketing professionals, entrepreneurs, and small to medium sized business owners that finding the right information online is often a difficult and time consuming process.

If you're like me, when you're searching for answers, you want them fast. After doing some research I decided to take matters into my own hands - to find a solution for this ever increasing problem. The need for on demand solutions to the most difficult and challenging marketing questions.

The Internet Marketing Forum is now live!

Even though I've been on the Internet for more than a decade, I was never a big fan of message boards and the like. Quite honestly, until about a year ago, I had never even posted on a forum. But I quickly learned the value of becoming a forum participant from both the perspective of posting questions as well as contributing with answers and explanations on topics aligned with my experience.

After making a rather substantial investment to update (my main marketing website) by adding a forum, I'm happy to announce the beta version went live earlier this week. I've already received great feedback from visitors and have already started work on a version 2.0.

Now It's Up To You!

The success of this forum, designed for those interested in marketing, is entirely up to you! I know that each of us needs a resource to connect with others in marketing and who have skill sets outside our own. This community can also help to validate Internet marketing concepts and ideas. I encourage everyone reading about this release to visit the Marketing Forum and register for free.. make a post, answer a question, and let the marketing community know you're out there.

Please give me your feedback! This forum is intended for us... marketing folk (with a bent towards online marketing) so let me know what you think. What would make it better? How can we improve it?

Special Bonus: For anyone visiting the site and registering (FREE) within the next 48 hours, I'll gladly email you a sample chapter from my top selling book, "SEO Made Simple: Strategies For Dominating The World's Largest Search Engine". Simply comment on this post with your email and feedback. I won't publish any comments that include email so your info is safe.

All the best and happy marketing...


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Automated Directory Submission - Worth the Price?

If you're looking for short cuts to high search engine placements, you'll be looking for a very long time. I recently worked with someone on search engine optimization and spent a good deal of time focusing on both on page optimization techniques and off page optimization. Due to a relatively simple web site, optimizing their pages was relatively easy. We soon focused on off page optimization and some techniques to quickly build links to their website.

Building your web site's popularity is essential for improving your search engine rankings. Major search engines like Google apply an algorithm to define the value of your web site or web page. This in turn drives your search engine ranking for specific keywords. One way to think about the process of web site ranking is like a voting machine. The more votes you get the better your site ranks.

When evaluating a web site I'm always sure to evaluate the content of the site. All content should be designed for the browser and then considered appropriate for search engine spiders. After validating the link structure of the web site and checking to make sure that pages load quickly, it's time to focus on link building.

One particular link strategy is related to directory submissions. Essentially you find directories that are well established and relevant to the subject matter of your own web site. The site I was working with had about 300 directories that would be ideal for a site like has. As a result, and due to the urgency by which he wanted the work done, we chose an automated directory submission service.

In as little as forty eight hours of the website being submitted through an automated submission service, rankings for particular keywords were negatively impacted and significantly. We lost anywhere from ten to thirty spots on search engine rankings. One might be able to argue that the auto submission was not detectable and therefore could not have had this effect. I disagree as there were no other factors related to SEO that we were working on at the time.

The team was not working on any other form of link building and as a result, what happened seems to be directly related to the automatic submission service. The challenge with these types of services is that you really can't tell what type of activity they are engaged in when submitting to directories. All that I know for sure is that our rankings dropped significantly after the submission date.

If you are familiar with search engine optimization and building links to improve your search engine ranking, be cautious of automatic submission services. Whether it be for search engine submission or directory submission, you can damage your current rankings. Major search engines seem to be catching on to automatic submission sites and are having an impact on results. I still encourage you to submit your website to a small number of choice directories but do it one site at a time.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Do's and Dont's of Choosing a Marketing Company

The right marketing company can amplify your team's capabilities, offer experience, fresh ideas and expertise to help you grow your business. With the exploding media landscape, it's both challenging and unrealistic to have all creative design, branding, advertising, media buying, PR and marketing services in house. However, it takes time and resources to effectively hire a marketing company.

Most businesses don't realize it's not just about capabilities and industry experience; there's a host of other factors that come into play. Here are some best practices to consider when selecting a marketing company:

-Money Matters.
Establish a budget range and timing upfront, or you'll prolong your search for a marketing company, spin wheels and waste time. You can spend weeks or months interviewing creative design firms, advertising agencies or PR firms and after rounds of meetings and proposals, experience sticker shock and find it's not a good fit after all.

-Right-size. Get an idea of the size and scope of the marketing company's average clients over the past 12-18 months. If you have an accurate picture of their typical engagements, there's a greater chance the relationship has the potential to grow over time.

-Manage Expectations. Develop a clear scope of work, concrete deliverables, and a timeline. What happens in the first 30 days? What are the deliverables after 3 months? What are the key points for approvals? Tie a fee schedule to key milestones.

-Recent Results. Most marketing companies have downsized staff to some degree. Be sure to check to see if the top talent that developed the memorable creative design portfolios, advertising or PR campaigns still active or laid-off and long-gone? Look for recent successes, and meet the team.

-Expertise. Is their work good or great? Amateur or expert? Is the work adequate, or do you admire it? Look for seasoned marketing professionals, proven track records with successes against similar objectives, and lots of examples and case studies to prove it.

-Culture counts. Are they communicative and responsive? Are they too schlocky? Or, too corporate? Would they fit in your office environment? How they act, think, what they value, their style and how they communicate should be ideally aligned with your team's culture. Don't and Pitfalls:

- Assume "full-service." Larger, integrated marketing companies have the in-house staff-although you may pay for overhead you don't need. A smaller marketing company may claim to be "full-service," but actually outsources to accommodate clients' needs. Specialty firms offer value. Identify your needs, understand what's handled in-house and meet the team.

- Avoid 'signature' looks. Be wary of a creative design firm or advertising agency that has a signature look, or canned cookie-cutter approach. Does all their work have a similar style? Your brand should come first-not theirs. Look for a varied creative design portfolio, across industries. Range is power.

- Fall in love for all the wrong reasons. Yes, chemistry is very important. However, it should not be the primary decision driver. You need to remain objective when it comes to finding a marketing company. Think rationally, and value big ideas that can drive your brand and your business.

- Issue a blanket RFP to a long list. An RFP usually calls for a disaster. Because it's time consuming to provide an intelligent response, RFPs often alienate the super stars that may be just the ones you need. Do your due diligence or hire a search consultant to help you develop the right marketing company short-list in advance.

These tips will help you maximize your resources and get the best return on your time and investment. If you've never completed the process of choosing a marketing firm on your own, be sure to check references and interview a minimum of five firms. This will give you plenty to choose from and help in the decision making process.

Guest post by: Michele Harris, Founder and President of Smarti Solutions, the leading marketing company search firm for the mid-size marketplace. Michele has 18 years experience developing revenue-rich marketing and business development programs for a client portfolio that reads like a veritable "Who's Who" among Fortune 500 companies and the nation's premier marketing companies.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Good Marketing Tip #197

Today's marketing tip is all about testing. Did you know that by testing landing pages, the average lift in response is 40%? Yes... forty percent. If you're doing any direct marketing, you know how significant that number can be.

I sat in on a Webinar today that talked about optimizing landing pages and improving conversion rates. This is something I do on a regular basis and is essential for anyone trying to improve search engine ranking. The key is to do A/B testing ALL THE TIME!

The easiest way that I've found for regular testing is to use Google Webmaster Tools. This is incredibly helpful because they have something called Google Website Optimizer. This allows you to test either a single web page element or multiple elements (multivariate testing). Regardless of which one you choose, Google does all the heavy lifting.

So today's marketing tip is this. Sign up for Google webmaster tools, learn more about A/B testing, and start evaluating how to improve conversion rates on your web pages. You'll learn a great deal about browser behavior and more importantly improve conversions.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Marketing Tip #196

Link to me please! I find it pretty funny that so many people have, all of a sudden, woken up to search engine optimization and the concept of improving organic search results. I don't know why it's taken so long but I feel like the industry is finally starting to shift.

As a marketing person who has always been involved with promotion - from print to the web - organic and paid search marketing has always been important to me. I've taken dozens of courses, seminars, etc. on both of these topics (I even wrote a book about it) yet I still feel like there is always more to learn.

Now the rest of the free world seems to be focusing on taking their online marketing to the next level. What does this mean for each of us? I think for some of us it means that we're in a good position to teach others about doing business online, what works, and what doesn't. I think for others who are less experienced in this area, it's more of a wake up call.

If you're not comfortable with doing business online, search engine optimization, or even PPC marketing, then get comfortable. Take a course, an online seminar, or do-it-yourself. I was reminded while reading a book last night that nothing can take the place of actual experience. Do you have your own Adwords account? Website? Blog? If you don't, get started. This is the best way to learn and costs very little.

By staying on top of your game you can help others and more importantly help yourself. Where do you stand on this topic? Do you feel that seo and ppc are now part of your discussions more than ever?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Marketing Tip #195

Is your marketing proving more challenging today? I hear from a number of marketers that they are having major difficulties acquiring new customers. So in today's blog post I wanted to talk a little about new client acquisition and some marketing tactics you can use.

Tactic #1: Referrals. This is something this is largely overlooked but very effective. Reach out to your current customer base and ask them for referrals. Even better, provide an incentive for signing up and/or referring new customers to your product or service.

Tactic #2: Introductory Pricing. This is usually called try before you buy and is a great way to get people started. Offer an introductory fee that is a fraction of what it normally costs for a month of your service. Or offer first time buyers a 30% discount. All you need to do is break even on the first purchase as many of these customers will become repeat buyers.

Tactic #3: Offer Value Add. One of my favorite tactics is to offer a free guide or work shop. This equates value to you, your service, or your product. Offering something that gets people engage at little or no cost is paramount to success.

Try these marketing tips to see if you can drum up some new business! After giving it a try, be sure to comment below so that others can learn from your success.

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